Side view of neural networks in a brain

Mental Health & Disorders

HEALTH AREA

Mental illness is responsible for one of the largest disease burdens in Australia. NeuRA has active programs in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as childhood developmental disorders such as autism and behavioural disorders such as ADHD.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is a general term for frequent bouts of nervousness, fear, apprehension, or worrying, which appear without a reasonable cause. They can cause real, physical symptoms and affect how a person behaves.

Autism

One study is using an innovative technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study compare longitudinal changes in brain activity in children aged 2-6 who have autism with typically developing children.

Binge drinking

Adolescence is a critical period for brain development. We are conducting research into how excessive drinking affects the teenage brain. This research will be crucial to informing our alcohol licensing laws and public health advice.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects around 1% of the Australian population. Without treatment it can be debilitating, although those living with bipolar can lead successful and fulfilling lives by managing their condition. Bipolar disorder is classified as a mood (or affective) disorder and is characterised by extreme swings in mood. While we don’t know what causes bipolar disorder, we believe it has a biological basis. We are currently working on identifying the genetic causes of bipolar disorder by studying families and individuals with bipolar disorder, as well as the young children of people who have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. So far, we have identified a number of susceptibility genes which we believe increase a person’s risk in developing bipolar disorder.

Childhood disorders

Having a good understanding of mood and behavioural disorders is important. So too is starting an intervention early to correct the trajectory of these disorders because this is a time when the brain is still developing, as is the young person's idea of who they can be.

Depression

Depression is more than just tearfulness or feelings of sadness. It refers to a range of mood and other symptoms that are intense, long-lasting and distressing to the person. These symptoms will likely interfere with a person’s day-to-day life and relationships.

Epidemiology & Population Health

Our research seeks to determine the antecedents, and risk and protective factors for particular mental disorders, with implications for identifying new targets for preventative interventions.

Resilience

Resilience defines the process that enables people to cope and positively adapt in the face of stress or misfortune, and enables them to better handle adversity or rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that emerges in adolescence or young adulthood and affects approximately 1 in 100 people in Australia and worldwide. It causes difficulties in thinking and unusual experiences such as hearing unpleasant voices or having false and sometimes bizarre beliefs. People with schizophrenia often avoid family and friends, lack motivation and are often unable to work.

Stress-related psychopathology

Psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder) and mood disorders (e.g., bipolar disorder, major depression) are known to share genetic vulnerabilities and environmental risk factors that affect brain function and cognition. Our multidisciplinary approach to understanding the stress-related neurobiology of these severe and disabling psychiatric conditions sees collaboration among experts in cognition, neuroimaging, genetics, and bioinformatics working together on a number of specific projects which are listed below according to funding received.

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

The cold case of schizophrenia - broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’ Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech. This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions. What are they doing there? What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them? This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong! It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia? How you can help We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment. We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure? To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below. You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.
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